|Studs and Duds: Tyler Zeller, Evan Turner led Celtics past Knicks||02.02.16 at 10:16 pm ET|
Shooting is overrated.
On a night when the Celtics couldn’t make a 3-pointer to save their lives — missing their first 13 — it didn’t matter in a 97-89 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, the Celtics (28-22) pulled a half-game ahead of the Heat and are tied with the Hawks for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
In a sloppy and physical first half, the Celtics kept the game close, despite only shooting 38 percent from the field and missing all 13 of their 3-point attempts.
With their outside shots not falling, the Celtics pulled ahead in the third quarter by moving the ball and attacking the basket. After only managing six assists in the first half, the Celtics assisted on nine of their 11 third quarter field goals.
In the fourth, the Celtics bench, led by Turner, Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk, dominated the Knicks, abusing their terrible pick-and-roll defense. The trio combined for 25 of the team’s 27 points in the final frame.
They needed it, too, because they were abysmal from long range, making only 3 of 19 3-pointers (15.8 percent). They helped their cause by limiting the Knicks to 30 percent shooting from distance (6-for-20).
The C’s return home to play the Pistons to complete the back-to-back on Wednesday night.
|Why Celtics won’t sign Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller to contract extensions now||11.02.15 at 2:03 pm ET|
The NBA salary cap is expected to expand $20 million next summer, so Sullinger and Zeller have no reason to sign a team-friendly extension based on the league’s current salary structure. Likewise, the C’s have little incentive to sign Sullinger and Zeller to player-friendly deals now, because of the former’s conditioning issues and the latter’s inconsistent production.
Consider that fellow 2012 NBA Draft first-round pick Jeremy Lamb, who couldn’t crack the regular rotation in Oklahoma City for his first three seasons, is reportedly signing a three-year, $21 million contract extension two games into his Hornets career. Sullinger and Zeller should receive an average annual value of $7 million next summer if they respectively eat a handful of Big Macs for lunch every day and fall to fifth or sixth on the C’s frontcourt depth chart this season.
More likely, both will be seeking double-digit millions per season next summer, and by not offering them that kind of cash flow right now, the Celtics can monitor their progress closely now and maintain significant salary cap flexibility in 2016, when both become restricted free agents and represent $12.2 million in combined cap holds come July 1.
|Sadly, Tyler Zeller concedes Celtics won’t finish 82-0 this season||09.23.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
If the C’s finish with the same 40-42 record they produced in 2014-15, they may not only fail to claim a No. 7 seed again, but miss the playoffs entirely. Just about every Eastern Conference team that finished below Boston last season has since upgraded its roster, save for the 76ers.
“From a coaching standpoint, I always go into a season looking at what I think we’ll be able to do well, and I think you look at what your potential challenges will be,” Stevens told the media gathered at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth for the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser. “So, I just look at it more as a job. I don’t look at it as what expectations are from results.
“We have such a long way to go to be where we want to be. We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again. The East is better. Teams that didn’t make it really improved. We were as close to 12th as we were to fourth, so time will tell if we make the right strides, but if we take shortcuts or if we’re not connected, then we won’t. So, that’s our job.”
In what has also become an annual tradition, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered his list of contenders for the Eastern Conference crown this season.
|Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger face contract extension conundrum||09.22.15 at 11:54 am ET|
As anticipated, negotiations between the Celtics and their trio of players entering the final year of their rookie contracts — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III — haven’t moved beyond an initial discussion.
“I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players, and we’ll see how it goes in October,” team president Danny Ainge said from Plymouth, where the C’s hosted their annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. “We have until October to make those decisions, and we’ll see how training camp goes.”
Ainge and the agents for Sullinger and Zeller are expected to be far apart on negotiations. The C’s will seek team-friendly deals for a pair of players who haven’t established themselves as anything beyond role players, while those two — as all free agents will be — are anticipating hefty raises when the salary cap balloons $20 million in 2016. As for Jones, he may not even make the roster, so he won’t be signing an extension for an entirely different reason.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have an extension, just because it’s a little more security, but at the same time you’ve got to approach the year, and you can’t be heartbroken if you don’t get it,” said Zeller, one of two players (Jonas Jerebko) at the charity golf event. “You have to be fully prepared. Either way, I’ve got to do my job this year. I have one more year on my contract, so I’ve got to go out and do as much as I can to help our team this year.”
While Sullinger was not present Tuesday, his father was in a foursome at Plymouth’s Old Sandwich Golf Club. The Celtics brass has not seen Satch Sullinger’s son this summer, as the fourth-year big man is not one of eight players working out in Waltham, but Ainge has followed Jared Sullinger’s training regimen on social media. Sort of.
“My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures, but I’m not worried about that,” said Ainge, who has criticized Sullinger’s conditioning in the past. “I know Jared is putting in the work this summer. It’s a big year for him and for us, and I’m confident he’s going to have a terrific year.”
But there’s at least a chance neither Sullinger nor Zeller will earn the starting positions they held at various points last season, since the arrival of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson presents a logjam in the frontcourt. And that could present a problem for a pair of players who need playing time now to increase their value next summer.
“It’s one of those things where hopefully your play speaks for itself,” said Zeller. “You’ve just got to go and find your little niche and what your team needs, where you fit, and hopefully that will kind of talk for itself and get you playing time. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to find a spot for you.”
|Danny Ainge will have contract talks with Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger||09.04.15 at 6:33 am ET|
The Celtics have until Oct. 31 to decide if they want to offer contract extensions to Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, two extension-eligible players that are still on their rookie contracts.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told The Boston Globe that he’s had meetings with Sullinger and Zeller’s agents and that talks will continue through October.
“Obviously, those are two guys that we like moving forward,” Ainge told the Globe. “So, yeah, there will be more discussions with both of them, probably during the month of October.”
Zeller, who is coming off the most impressive season of his young career, earned a starting spot in the lineup at center last season. Averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, Zeller may have the best chance of signing a contract extension with the Celtics before November.
Sullinger, 23, is coming off of another injury-plagued season, playing only 58 games last year. He averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds, but the Celtics may hold off on offering him a contract extension until they see health improvements. Sullinger still is young, but as he’s had back and foot surgeries, the Celtics have seen him play one complete season throughout his three-year career. His weight and conditioning also have become a concern, a problem that Sullinger has worked on this summer, gearing up for the upcoming season.
Newly acquired forward Perry Jones is another player who is eligible for a contract extension, but he will have to fight for a spot on the roster. Jones, who was traded to the Celtics from Oklahoma City, could be cut from the team since the Celtics have to eliminate one of their 16 guaranteed contracts to get down to the league maximum of 15 players.
|Celtics roundtable wrap-up: Team awards||04.17.15 at 12:58 pm ET|
With the end of the regular season, WEEI.com’s Celtics writers — Julian Edlow, Sam Packard and Ben Rohrbach — have come together to hand out some team awards. On Sunday Ben Rohrbach will have a complete preview the first-round playoff series between the Celtics and Cavaliers.
Julian Edlow: It sounds so corny to make a coach the MVP, but it’s the truth. Brad Stevens is the Celtics‘ MVP. What he’s done, going from a revolving door of players into a tight-knit team that’s hotter than anyone in the East, is truly remarkable. Each and every one of Stevens’ guys love playing for him, and it shows out on the court.
Sam Packard: I was leaning toward Stevens, too, for all the reasons Julian mentioned, but for variety’s sake I will take a player. I think Avery Bradley is the MVP this season. In addition to his great defense, Bradley has been the Celtics‘ most consistent scorer. If he could just extend his range out about three feet, he would be an All-Star.
Ben Rohrbach: Brad Stevens. When the front office trades your team’s top scorer (Jeff Green) and top playmaker (Rajon Rondo), injuries claim your last three first-round picks for at least 15 games apiece (Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart), and you’re operating at various stretches of the season with Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Evan Turner and even Tayshaun Prince as your best player, it’s probably safe to say your coaching played an important role in your team winning 40 games.
JE: The playoffs are as big of a surprise as we could have imagined. No one saw this coming when the C’s were 16-30 just 2 1/2 months ago. Fast forward to the postseason and Boston is 40-42 — finishing up at 24-12 since Feb. 2. And for those who would consider changing the playoff format, and I’m not against this, the Celtics still would be in with the 16th-best record in the league. But if the playoffs were too broad of an answer, getting Isaiah Thomas is a big surprise, too. He’s a huge reason that they are where they are.
SP: Who knew Evan Turner could be this good? No matter what he does, he is going to be the most hated Celtic on Twitter, but I have been really impressed by his ability to run the offense this year. His 2.5 turnovers a game are annoying, but the guy needs the ball in his hands to make plays, and he does exactly that. This year he joined Larry Bird, Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as the only Celtics to have three triple-doubles in a season.
BR: Turner. Anybody who thought a guy who ranked 205th in assist-to-turnover ratio last season would essentially be running the point as arguably the most important player for a playoff team this year is kidding themselves.
|Kelly Olynyk proves he’s as tough as any hockey player||04.02.15 at 9:34 am ET|
Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.
Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.
Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.
“It didn’t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”
“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”
What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.
“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”
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